Returning Half the Earth to Nature

Photo by Erik Molvar

By Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project

Dr. Edward O. Wilson, one of the world’s foremost ecologists and thinkers, will be in Washington, D.C. next week for a series of presentations on migration corridors in the United States and the diversity of life across the globe. This is part of Dr. Wilson’s ‘Half-Earth’ campaign, a proposal to save our imperiled biosphere by devoting half of the planet’s surface to nature. It’s a bold idea at a time when the global scale of problems like climate change, pollution tipping-points, and mass extinction seem intractable.

Humans – and every other living thing on Earth – now face three major crises that threaten the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem, and ultimately, our own survival.

The first is the biodiversity crisis, a ‘wave of extinction’ that is wiping out native species with a rapidity that has no precedent in the five prior mass extinction events. These were mediated by natural events — meteor strikes, volcanism, or glaciation. This sixth wave of extinction is our fault. The spread of agriculture, deforestation, urban sprawl, unnatural climate-caused weather anomalies and invasive non-native species all are pushing plants and wildlife over the edge. In the oceans, overfishing, dead zones caused by agricultural pollutant runoff, the bleaching of coral reefs, and the accumulation of persistent human garbage all contribute to a similar trend. The complex interrelationships of these species and systems are only beginning to be understood, and the cascading losses are accumulating faster than we can even chronicle their existence.

The second major crisis is the rapidly changing and chaotic climate. Economists and insurance corporations are already raising alarms at the billions in costs from hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe weather that are increasing in frequency and severity. Longer fire seasons are also taking their toll, especially in areas where human settlement is spreading into fire-prone ecosystems. In the long term, the biggest disaster may be the changing patterns of precipitation, with longer and deeper periods of drought that have the potential to turn agricultural breadbaskets into dust bowls and create famine on regional or even global scales.

The third crisis, an underlying cause of the other two, is human population growth. Humans are displacing and consuming large percentages of the planet’s resources, outcompeting plants and animals for space, food, and water. We’re entering a period of “overshoot,” where human demands are exceeding the biomass availability of the increasingly unhealthy planet. What will happen?

In the 1980s, I was part of a team of scientists examined a population of moose that started with six animals in 1959 that had been transplanted onto to a remote island off the coast of Alaska. In the absence of natural predators, the moose population ballooned over the next two decades until 212 moose crowded the island by 1982. They denuded the 23-square mile island of its willows and were digging in the sand for roots and rhizomes to survive. Even as the males starved to death, the females – well-adapted to the severe conditions of Alaska – kept giving birth to twins. Then the population crashed, and by 1986, only eight moose remained. It was ugly, painful, but entirely demonstrative of how population growth without fully functioning checks and balances can lead to devastation.

We humans also live on an island – the planet Earth. There are ways to be more efficient with our resources and live more within the natural limits of carrying capacity.

Some have pointed to the large acreage of the Earth committed to animal agriculture, and suggest that the solution is to stop eating meat, and switch to an all-vegetarian diet to save the planet. While livestock degrade, deforest, and desertify vast ecosystems, others counter that conversion to a monoculture of plant crops, often genetically manipulated and propped up by toxic pesticides and fertilizers, also is ecologically devastating. Still others point to our dying oceans and the compelling need to reduce our reliance on seafood. There is truth in all three claims. But if we get rid of these three food sources, what then we will eat? Clearly, something more fundamental than switching dietary habits needs to change.

The Half-Earth campaign provides a useful and beneficial framework on land and sea under which we can strive to move humanity back to an ecologically sustainable relationship with the planet. Shrinking our footprint allows the expansion of forests and jungles, drawing carbon out of the atmosphere. More compact urban areas mean less sprawl and more surrounding natural countryside for residents to enjoy. Could crops be grown on flat roofs or dangling from balconies? If so, we could might be able to return some fertile river bottoms and grasslands to nature. Can livestock be removed from recoverable native ecosystems? If so, native species can repopulate, and damaged ecosystems can rebound.

At the same time, we can accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources. Coal, oil, and natural gas are rapidly depleting and will run out in any case, so we might as well transition to renewables now before we find ourselves in another energy crisis. Could roads and parking lots join buildings in becoming solar energy collectors? It’s already starting to happen in some countries. And distributed renewable power could make buildings energy self-sufficient, replacing our current model where large acreages of the Earth are dedicated to strip mines, oil and gas fields, or wind farms.

Some nations are achieving zero or negative population growth already. We can look to these nations to see what is working best, and whether it can be applied to nations where the human population is expanding. Ultimately, gains in energy efficiency and reallocation of lands from food production to natural ecosystems will be useless unless we also address human population growth.

We’ll need our best and brightest to show us the way, and Dr. E.O. Wilson is here to help. It’s time to reverse centuries of consumptive destruction, and provide natural systems and native plants and animals half of the Earth. For their sakes, and for ours.

Erik Molvar is a wildlife biologist and executive director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit environmental conservation group that works to protect and restore watersheds and wildlife in the western United States. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. 



  1. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    How exciting that Dr. E.O. Wilson is speaking, as is the subject matter.

  2. Patrick Avatar

    I think it would be great for WWP and other like-minded organizations to show how this can work at a state or county level. The idea would be to demonstrate that a state can remain economically viable using only half its land. The naysayers will say it’s impossible, so folks supporting this concept have to prove otherwise.

  3. rork Avatar

    Methods to accomplish the goals were almost entirely absent from the article. I advocate taxes. On carbon, and on animals, including pets.
    When looking at fertile agricultural areas (Missouri say, but I name a hundred other places), it is always shocking to see how much of it is planted to annual row crops, and how little discussion there is about how long that can be sustained.
    I was also astonished that in talking about human caused mass extinctions, that ocean acidification went unmentioned, compared to which some other things are trivia.

    1. Jeremy B. Avatar
      Jeremy B.

      The political climate at the moment is anti-regulation, anti-tax, and (generally) anti-public sector; and people are angry and cynical. (In rural areas, multiply the effect by 3). I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I just don’t know how one could make something like this happen given the political climate? In a generation, after the ultra-entitled boomer generation ages out of the population…maybe then it could happen.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        Every generation has its own feeling of ‘entitlement’. Settler who came here from Europe certainly felt entitled, didn’t they.

        Those who reached adulthood in the 60s and 70s were idealistic enough to create the majority of civil rights and environmental laws that we see being dismantled today, so you can hardly say they were selfish and entitled. I don’t think we’ll ever see another era like it.

        People don’t even care enough to vote today, and that is one reason it is said that caused the political situation we have now.

        1. Jeremy B. Avatar
          Jeremy B.

          The boomer generation was born after WWII, grew up during a time of unprecedented economic growth, and after we’d established systems — largely under the New Deal — to foster social well-being. When they went to college, it was nearly free; when they got out of college, the job market was booming; when they needed insurance for their family and children, it was nearly free; and when they reached mid-life and their earnings began to peak, Reagan gave them a tax break, while growing the government (so they got to have their cake, and eat it too). It’s no coincidence that the push for universal health care comes right as the boomers retire.

          Gen-Xers and millennials will not have near the return on investment in their government that boomers have enjoyed.

          1. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue

            But the Boomers have paid into it all along. The greatest generation also bailed out Europe, most countries of which have universal health care. Boomers had nothing to do with that. Most boomers are now in Medicare years, again, what they have paid into. If they are making noise, it’s for future generations.

            Let’s also be honest, that it was the boomer generation that began NOT taking the governments word as truth. They were willing to question, something perhaps which the millenials should learn. Otherwise, once the boomers are gone, the clear path to total plutocacy is open.

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              Well said!

            2. Jeremy B. Avatar
              Jeremy B.

              They sure took the word of Reagan when he promised that we could have low taxes, grow the economy and reduce the deficit — and they’re still voting for politicians that make these promises. Meanwhile, more than 7 trillion dollars in social security and medicare taxes were used to cover government expenses (to keep taxes) low. So we’ve had an unsustainable tax system for 30 years — years in which the boomers were at the peak of their income earnings. To fix this, taxes will have to go up (while boomers are retired).

              How the Baby Boomers Stole Trillions of Dollars from the Millennials


              1. Immer Treue Avatar
                Immer Treue

                Taxes will have to go up. OK, who will pay those taxes? Perhaps, if one considers the vote important, Millenials should vote at a rate of higher than 49%. Also, not all boomers voted for Reagan or his policies.

                1. Jeremy B. Avatar
                  Jeremy B.

                  (a) Taxes SHOULD go up, though in the short-term they’re likely to go down.

                  (b) ‘Who will pay those taxes?’ is an excellent question. One thing we know for sure– generally, boomer-retirees had low taxes and strong economic growth throughout their wage-earning years (thus, not only did they pay less, if they invested, they got more from that tax savings). Many boomers were also protected by unions, which are slowly disappearing and, given the rise in so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws, millennials are far less likely to benefit from unions (where one can be found).

                  (c) Indeed, Millennials should vote at a higher rate; but their rate of voting has nothing to do with whether the policy is fair.

                  (d) Yes, not all boomers voted for Reagan; however, the benefits accrued (in the form of low taxes) came regardless of who one voted for.

                  A persona anecdote: Like many states, the state of Ohio (for which I work) had a state-wide retirement system, in my case, for teachers. And like many states, this program made promises to members that were based on unrealistic economic growth. Today, most of us have moved from a ‘fixed-benefit’ system to a ‘fixed-contribution’ system; nevertheless, to pay for the people on the state retirement system, they are now effectively taxing those of us on the fixed-contribution system. So 17.4% of the retirement contribution that should come to me goes directly to pay for the benefits of those members (mostly boomers). The phrase ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ no doubt comes to mind?

                2. Immer Treue Avatar
                  Immer Treue

                  Sounds like you’ve got more of an issue with politicians in general, and republicans in particular than you do with boomers. Most of us have taken big hits during our lives.

                  You’re being lured toward the trap into which they want you to fall. It’s divide and conquer. I remember when I began in education, I was made to feel inferior by friends who said, why would you go to school to make so little in return for your efforts, all the while they were raking in big money. When things collapsed, all of a sudden, the same folks would say, “it’s not fair for you to get what you’re getting and I’m not.”

                  BS! It’s called a contract, and if the contract isn’t sacred, then F it, let’s have anarchy and see how that goes. I’ve contributed to Negative population growth, why should I have had to pay for public school systems? Sounds like deVos will fix that, eh.

                  Thanks to Reagan, we’re all in the barrel. During his admin, was the heyday of corporate raiders. I didnt vote for him and I didn’t vote for 45. You’re whining. Plus, what in the world do your rants have to do with the topic of this heading?

                3. JB Avatar


                  I was not ‘ranting’, merely pointing out an injustice in our system — one that disproportionately impacts people of younger generations.

                  Note, I haven’t advocated for any specific policies (other than the very tax increases that will negatively impact millennials), so I’m not sure we have a disagreement concerning what should be done? It seems, rather, that you don’t like the facts. Here I’ll simply point out that an injustice is an injustice, regardless of whose feelings are hurt by pointing it out.

                  I’m not sure what ‘contracts’ you speak of? I’m speaking generally of the ‘social contract’ that governments have with their citizens, and the expectation that one generation should not benefit itself at the cost of future generations (i.e., intergenerational equity).

                  Context for my comments — Rork (rightly) criticized the article for lacking suggestions about how to accomplish the goals advocated by the author. He suggested additional taxes, which I pointed out, are not likely in the current political climate–which probably won’t change until millennials start out-voting boomers (or until enough boomers age out of the population that they are swamped by millennials).

                4. Yvette Avatar

                  “Also, not all boomers voted for Reagan or his policies.”

                  I’m tailed boomer generation and born before GenX began. I witnessed the change. Reagan’s first term is a bad memory from my early 20’s.

                  Yes, I remember when friends went to college and was able to pay their way through with summer jobs (minimum wage) and work study programs. No loans.

                  JB, I’ve not seen you make broad generalizations like your posts on boomers. I’m a boomer. I got no benefits from it other than watch Reaganomics ruin my 20’s.

                5. Jeremy B. Avatar
                  Jeremy B.

                  “I’ve not seen you make broad generalizations like your posts on boomers. I’m a boomer. I got no benefits from it other than watch Reaganomics ruin my 20’s.”

                  Yvette: What you describe here is the ecological fallacy — making inferences about individuals from groups. If you look through my posts, I was pretty careful to avoid making any inferences about individuals; rather, I kept the focus at the group level. Of course, any time we discuss a ‘group’ we’re forced to speak in generalizations. And these generalizations can be facts (e.g., Americans who self-identify as hunters express more negative attitudes toward wolves than those who self-identify as environmentalists). Likewise, what I’ve noted about boomers relative to other generations are facts; they are well-documented in Paul Taylor’s book, ‘The Next America’.


              2. rork Avatar

                It’s true that benefits accrued even if you were strongly against the raiding, the tax giveaways for the very wealthy, and thought taxing less to boost economies is voodoo lying. The minority of us with empathy and brains continue to ask for greater taxes, mostly on the wealthy, to pay for health care, education, help the needy, and employ people (who will boost the economy by instantly spending their money), and better infrastructure could be a side effect. It’s hard convincing average people that this makes sense is all. Money in their pocket means more than societal benefits – they are unable to see how lifting all ships benefits them and not just others. The money in my pocket argument is simple, the counterargument is more complicated. Let’s not blame boomers – the wedge should be driven somewhere else.

                1. JB Avatar


                  Replace “unable” with “unwilling” and we’re in complete agreement until your final sentence. I ‘listen’ to folks here blame politicians, conservatives, republicans, industry, etc., quite often for our environmental problems. And frankly, I don’t disagree. Collectively, they’re culpable, even if some among them vote/feel differently. Same is true at the generation level, as far as I’m concerned.

                2. WM Avatar

                  Speaking of special use fees or taxes, as noted in my previous post, this from a Seattle Times article today, it looks like National Park access will be much more expensive, if this proposal goes thru. Absolutely regressive in nature, and keeping some in lower economic rungs out of these national treasures belonging to all the people of America. On the other hand, doesn’t it cost about $15/person to go to a 2 hour movie these days:

              3. Immer Treue Avatar
                Immer Treue

                Retired Boomers, all Boomers, are taxed on every penny of income, including pensions, in MN. You’ll get no sympathy from me in that regard. The upper echelon has us all by the short hairs.

                1. Jeremy B. Avatar
                  Jeremy B.

                  You’re refusing to recognize the facts — the tax rates that boomers pay are lower than what the ‘greatest generation’ paid when they were at the height of their earnings; and in all likelihood, millennials will have to pay similar rates. That is inequity. Period.

                2. WM Avatar

                  Perhaps you are both right, Immer and JB. Got to remember there are a lot more areas where tax dollars go than 70 years ago. Environmental improvement, social services programs, civil rights, etc., maybe even defense after the big war started and we slipped into the cold war, and space age. And businesses are more heavily regulated making for higher costs to produce goods and services. There are more special use taxes on goods and services, as well. Just look at your phone bill, utility bills, and even today there are annual passes to visit state and national parks and recreational areas, which were once free or at nominal cost.

                  After all that is factored in, I suspect, however, JB is closer to being on the mark, Immer. The economy millennials inherited from boomers certainly suggests a dimmer view for home-ownership, and wealth acquisition (including pensions which have gone by the wayside with many employers) to cover their lifespan. The 1 percenters are sucking up wealth even as these words are written, to the detriment of the rest of us.

                3. Immer treue Avatar
                  Immer treue

                  “The 1 percenters are sucking up wealth even as these words are written, to the detriment of the rest of us.”

                  And that’s the damned problem. Also, there are more Boomers than the Greatest Generation, who have paid taxes, and are continuing to do so as their parents drop like flies.

                  You can’t blame your problems on the Boomers. The Boomers were born at what was a supposedly good time. What would you have them do, forfeit negotiated pensions? Fine, then return their jobs to them, but then you’d have to throw the millennials out of work and on the unemployment lines. You can’t have it both ways.

    2. Louise Kane Avatar
      Louise Kane

      Agreed Rork, on all points

      1. Louise Kane Avatar
        Louise Kane

        Also absent from causes of extinction is over exploitation/hunting and neglecting to indicate that in prior extinctions climate based events were not solely responsible for extinctions. Many of the large mammals were hunted and were not adapted to survive human predation or Neanderthal either.

  4. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    The Netherlands feeds the world.

    And zero to negative population growth is not a bad thing.

    We are most likely on the precipice of a real global population catastrophe. Said catastrophe can be avoided, but how does one get 7 billion on the planet to cooperate, when we find total dis-function among the few who govern our slice of the planet.

    1. Patrick Avatar

      I read this NatGeo article when it came out. Very impressive what they have been able to do.

    2. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
      Mareks Vilkins

      And zero to negative population growth is not a bad thing.

      well, Eastern Europeans would disagree.

      “Eastern Europe has the largest population loss in modern history”

      If that depopulation is ‘achieved’ thanks to poverty/inequality then the remaining ones will have no scruples exploiting natural resources to ‘save jobs in regions /countryside’ etc. Rural folks are complaining that nature conservation is bigger priority than the families in countryside (BS, of course, but one can hear that grudge quite often).

      1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
        Mareks Vilkins

        I mean, just google ‘abortion history in Russia / Estonia’ etc. It’s a scary reading.

      2. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        Zero to negative population growth needs have no connection to abortion.

        1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
          Mareks Vilkins

          yes, family planning and all that, but examples (mentioned in the reference from the article above)were from Eastern European countries (RU,UKR,EE,LT,Serbia etc.)
          And zero/negative growth or simply depopulation in those countries wer not due to family planning. Far from it – it was thanks to ‘shock therapy’ policy. And average density level is not high anyway.

          I have to remind that the Baltic countries already have 50% of their territories covered by forest where wolves,lynx and grizzlies roam. But I can only point to Estonia as an example of sensible government which have long-term planning documents for education, family planning/women sexual health, environmental protection etc. And they have minimal corruption rate / level and in general resemble Scandinavian societies (in a positive sense).
          I cannot say that about other Easter European countries.

          America/CAN and Western European countries maybe have family planning policy but they are by far the biggest consumers of world’s resources.

          1. WM Avatar

            Since the UN and WHO seem to believe the largest population growth will be in Africa over the next 50 years (including adoption of resource consumptive lifestyles already mentioned), what does that say for land use conversion, wildlife destruction and exploitation by native populations or others?

            1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
              Mareks Vilkins

              don’t you get tired parroting the same old crap?


              Take carbon dioxide emissions — a measure of our impact on climate but also a surrogate for fossil fuel consumption. Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environment Institute, calculates that the world’s richest half-billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for 50 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions.

              We cannot be sure how the global economic downturn will play out. But let us assume that Jeffrey Sachs, in his book Common Wealth, is right to predict a 600 percent increase in global economic output by 2050. Most projections put world population then at no more than 40 percent above today’s level, so its contribution to future growth in economic activity will be small.

              Of course, economic activity is not the same as ecological impact. So let’s go back to carbon dioxide emissions. Virtually all of the extra 2 billion or so people expected on this planet in the coming 40 years will be in the poor half of the world. They will raise the population of the poor world from approaching 3.5 billion to about 5.5 billion, making them the poor two-thirds.

              …those extra two billion people would raise the share of emissions contributed by the poor world from 7 percent to 11 percent.

              Look at it another way. Just five countries are likely to produce most of the world’s population growth in the coming decades: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The carbon emissions of one American today are equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians.

              1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
                Mareks Vilkins

                …we can have a shot at estimating the long-term impact of children from different countries down the generations.

                The best analysis of this phenomenon I have seen is by Paul Murtaugh, a statistician at Oregon State University. He recently calculated the climatic “intergenerational legacy” of today’s children. He assumed current per-capita emissions and UN fertility projections. He found that an extra child in the United States today will, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra Chinese child, 46 times that of a Pakistan child, 55 times that of an Indian child, and 86 times that of a Nigerian child.

            2. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
              Mareks Vilkins

              then, of course, consumerism supposes some extra income to be spent on goodies and poor countries where the population boom is expected have very high inequalities (that is, wealth is pretty much concentrated).

              let’s take a look at millionaire numbers in America and Nigeria :

              USA – 15 656 000 (Credit Suisse 2015 list)
              Nigeria – 15 400

              Nigeria’s millionaires make a whopping 0.098% (or 1000 times less) of the USA millionaire number.

              then again, let’s hope Immer’s NG link about hi-tec agriculture will help to feed the global population with as little environmental impact as possible

      3. Jeremy B. Avatar
        Jeremy B.

        “Rural folks are complaining that nature conservation is bigger priority than the families in countryside (BS, of course, but one can hear that grudge quite often).”

        Ketil Skogen, a Norwegian sociologist, has written about this phenomena related to wolves. Essentially, the idea is that rural resentment of depopulation (in rural areas) and urban investment (by politicians) has led rural Norwegians to resent wolves, which are seen as a symbol of urban dominance of politics.

        I don’t find fault in any of his reasoning, but I wonder if this is inevitable in societies as they shift from majority rural to majority urban (and power shifts, with a lag, of course)?

        1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
          Mareks Vilkins

          1) yep, Ketil Skogen has a lot of papers about this issue (I have to peruse them to counter LV hunter ideologues who promote Norway’s wolf policy as a role-model)


          NO: Norway’s wolves are being hunted; its reindeer are going mad

          “Wolves get so much attention in Norway because of the power of regional policy,” says Ketil Skogen of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. The Norwegian government provides fat subsidies to keep rural areas populated, yet remote communities continue to shrink. When their residents say they want large predators shot, authorities listen. Wolves threaten hunting dogs, Mr Skogen says, and compete with hunters for game.

          3) “I wonder if this is inevitable in societies as they shift from majority rural to majority urban”

          nope, – Germany, Poland do not hunt wolves for decades because they chose to protect large carnivores against unnecessary killing. Fortunately there’s a lot of ungulates in both countries and as years pass poaching is decreasing as well.
          Slovakia do not hunt lynx since 2000 and for the last 4 years only ~ 40-60 wolves (3-4 times less than before).

          4)however, hunter ratio in Scandinavian countries is much bigger than in other countries

          1. rork Avatar

            Maybe Germany and Poland are examples of “yup”. I haven’t spoken about wolf or bear management to my cow-farmer (with cows to the mountains in summer tricks) ungulate-hunting German relatives lately, but it might pain them to deal with new predators. You can walk to Austria from their valley (Tegernsee). In fact the draw you’d usually go up is called the wolfsschluct (ravine, gorge). I see stories of alm-keepers calling for wolves to be shot.

            PS: JB’s observations sound allot like divides in Michigan – and we actually have a formidable physical barrier (Straits of Mackinaw) between the have wolves and don’t (mostly true at least). The yoopers hate us lefty pointy-headed bunny-huggers in Ann Arbor, who know nothing of reality.

            1. Jeremy B. Avatar
              Jeremy B.

              Rork, Mareks:

              The language I used was inappropriate–far too deterministic; nevertheless, my question remains: to what extent is resentment of wolves a function of the (perceived) marginalization of rural populations?

              Like Rork, my experience in the US suggests this type of ‘rural backlash’ is present in all of the systems where wolves are present. My contacts in Scandinavia suggest it is also apparent there. I just don’t know to what extent it actually causes intolerance of wolves; or alternatively, perhaps they are both a function of some other underlying phenomena?

              1. rork Avatar

                I’ll kill every wolf I see just to offend those elitist tree-and-bunny-hugging immigrant-loving Obama supporters who don’t know squat about the woods. Wolf lives matter I bet they are saying. We don’t need no stinking licenses up here.
                (Yes, this is satire, and I mean to be fairly edgy about it, cause it really is very close to what I’ve seen said and written in MI.)

  5. Bob Brister Avatar
    Bob Brister

    All of what Eric Molvar writes is true, but he overlooks some 800 pound gorillas in the room, like capitalism and militarism. The U.S. military with its empire of overseas bases is the world’s single biggest polluter and sucks up money needed for ecological restoration. Capitalism requires endless growth, causing problems on a finite planet. Human population is not a monolithic whole. Ruling class members, like the Kock brothers and Rex Tillerson have a lot more say over energy policy than your our my next door neighbor. Yes, I know it is scary and it might make someone unhappy, but enviro/conservation organizations have to address militarism and capitalism, not just symptoms.

    1. Makuye Avatar

      There are other opinions on the dilution of firm conservation and restoration of habitat and safe genetic connectivity, with favoring one human group over another.

      The real issue having proven deadly to all wild natural communities, is human population, development, and technology. These are in every case, without exception, provedn deadly and gragmentary to ALL natural ecosystems, and forms of life.
      If one chooses to advocate or work for intraspecies human “social justice”, one is merely using conservation of the species preferred by those particular ingroups
      They each have their preferences, and bigotry about which wild, species they desire to have, restrict, and manage.

      To identify one military of “class” over another is inaccurate and promotes their opponent anthropocentrists.
      You will note that NO political office-seeker EVER stands up for natural ecological systems, but always at best, inserts their hubristic “necessity” for management.

      Employed biologists, ecologists, botanists, are employed by institutions that favor or tolerate the excessive human overgrowth we now see everywhere. Those who have or do speak out against the destruction of the complex web of nature have some courage, or use their standing to do so, without recompense.

      Even indigenous human tribes, which have as valid rights as anyother human government, have published materials showing that they also feel some “right” to manage or restrict other species. Here is one such manifesto, which if read fully, shows that the usual modern human arrogance is NOT restricted to any special human group, but instead, is arrogated by any and all humans, who, I remind you, have always acted as introduced alien species at least within the last 10,000 years, when human populations may have been below 5 million worldwide.
      Read fully to find that tribal policies include the right to exterminate, and to ignore scientific determination of species vulnerability to extinction:

      Those who believe it is admirable to troll comment columns in order to promote antiwildlife and wildlife subjection to humans, should consider their private ignorance and biases before purporting to speak in any way for species not dependent upon and targeted by human arrogance, with which such commentors share all too much sympathy and perfidy.

      1. Makuye Avatar

        There are few typos in my comment above, wherever a sentence does not seem coherent, please check articles such as of, or, etc.

      2. Marc Bedner Avatar

        The White Mountain Apache Game Department, the chief author of this paper, has been part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program from the beginning. It is more evidence of the prejudices shared by the people you refer to as “employed biologists” (I would call them professional game managers) regardless of their ethnic background.

    2. Yvette Avatar

      Bob Briser, agree on all points. It’s part of what I was thinking when I read the article.

      Until there is a major global paradigm shift from the economic principles introduced with colonialism there will be no change. We will all slide down the sharp blade of capitalism and we lose.

  6. Mark Bailey Avatar

    Kevin Mueller has a phrase I like that pertains as a theme” “Yellowstone everywhere.”

  7. Patrick Avatar

    Doesn’t seem like anyone really want to address the “how” issue, so for the sake of discussion, let me take a stab at it. I would say the greatest concentration of areas that are still semi-wild and connectable, are the Appalachian mountain chain is the east, the Ozarks to the Loess Hills to the prairie pothole region of northern prairies of Minnesota and the Dakotas in the central US, and the Rockies in the West. I think there could be rungs to be found that would connect these three “ladders”. All levels of government, NGOs and private landowners could be involved in land protection and management. How to pay for it: make investment income taxable as ordinary income at the same rates, add a 42% tax bracket for annual incomes over 10 million, increasing the royalty fees for public land use (mining, grazing, resource extraction) to fair market value (with funds dedicated for conservation), expanded tax incentives for conservation (easements, restoration, etc), strengthening “sod buster” provisions and increase funding for CRP and related programs, reduce price supports for commodity crops, link federal crop insurance to the development and implementation of nutrient and sediment management plans, implement a single payer health care system (I think health care will improve and costs will be lower), increase taxes on short-term speculative trading, implement a carbon tax, and increase real estate transfer taxes on transactions exceeding 10 million, and finally aggressively pursue offshore accounts. That’s a start. On the flip side, I’m ok with some limited and compatible land use, such as low intensity grazing, ecotourism, hunting, sustainable agriculture using IPM, and perhaps other uses. I think it’s the only way to achieve the scale we need to connect these wilder places together. My 2 cents. I know I’m probably screaming into a hurricane on this, but why not put it out there anyway.

    1. rork Avatar

      I like almost all of that, starting with methods of taxing the rich, which is incredibly simple. The messaging from the right fights that hard, and largely thanks to the indisputable innumeracy of the American citizens, often works, to my amazement. The left is horrible at clarifying the situation. Just yesterday articles ran about being against changing taxes on 401k’s, but none could name a single person who proposed such changes – it’s theater I think.

      I’ll add some other, more local things. Many states should increase their land holdings, but we get pushback even when we try to spend tax and license moneys from outdoor enthusiasts to buy land. Selling more expensive land in exchange for larger cheaper tracts could help too – our legislators fight that too, trying to enact laws that no net acreage gains are legal. Even more locally, in my county (Washtenaw, MI, which includes Ann Arbor), we continue to vote in favor of property taxes that are used to buy “preserves” which can be outright purchase, or merely buying out the development rights, with some conditions on land use. Most function about like parks. I think that is rare – public office holders are whoever wins the Democratic primaries here. Finally (for now) there are several versions of land conservancies that buy land near me. I contribute some to the most local ones.

    2. rork Avatar

      I’m not sure long term capital gains being taxed as ordinary income will ever fly, but an increase makes sense to me. I’ve often wanted regressive “payroll” taxes to be absorbed into federal income taxes, but it was designed the way it is to be more immune to future complaints by the wealthy. Utopian no, wise maybe. Carbon tax rebate plans have related debates.

  8. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    actually there are alternatives and they are put to the test- just read Gar Alperovitz, Robin Hahnel, Robert Pollin etc books.

    There are literally hundreds of experiments going on at different levels that point to changes in ownership as a way to build new institutions—institutions that emerge from a more locally minded set of values. The Cleveland model is proliferating all over the country—there’s an effort like it in Atlanta, three in the Washington DC area, one in Pittsburgh, one in Cincinnati, a new one in the Bronx. Most people don’t realize that 25 percent of American electricity is provided by municipal ownership or co-ops, and much of it in the traditionally conservative South.

    SCOTT: How many people and how much capital are involved in cooperative institutions?

    GAR: There are around 130 million Americans who are members of co ops. The credit union sector, which is part of the co op sector, has more or as much capital as any one of the big five New York banks. The nonprofit sector is about 10 percent of the economy. And you can add in employee stock ownership plans, municipal enterprise, and community land trusts.

    At a slightly larger level, twenty states have introduced legislation to create publicly owned banks. The Bank of North Dakota, for example, which has been a state owned bank for about one hundred years, puts the public in control of investing, and has been very popular among residents.

    All of this is part of a larger movement toward democratically controlled and owned pieces of the economy, which is slowly building new institutions and infusing them with a different culture, ethic, and environmental concern.

      1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
        Mareks Vilkins

        then there’s Dean Baker’s books – some of them are free to download:

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      These are all wonderful things, but they are going to come up against the huge resistance of the status quo. I love my small town – we have a beautiful community land trust, municipal power where burned trash creates the electricity. But as far as the land trust, it depends upon the political climate. I’ve lived here 30 years – but suddenly I am smack dab in the middle of Trump country, one of the highest percentages of Trump voters in a bluest of the blue states. I don’t recall that when we first moved here; and I’m thankful the land trust was created long before now, I don’t know if it would be today.

      Progress may come too slowly for the sake of some other creatures, I fear.

      1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
        Mareks Vilkins

        being an environmentalist and the Trump-voter is not an oxymoron.

        “What Drives Trump Supporters?: Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild on Anger & Mourning of the Right” in 2 parts


        Actually, Arlie Hochschild’s book is very revealing in this respect.

        “Strangers in Their Own Land.” Hochschild is a noted sociologist.

        We know the story. She’s lived for many years in the bayou country in Louisiana and gave a very sympathetic understanding, conception of what the people are thinking and why, from a point of view of a Berkeley progressive, which she is. She was accepted into the community. It’s very revealing. The images she uses, which they accepted as the correct ones, is that people . . . they see themselves as standing in a line. They’ve been working hard all their lives, their parents worked hard, they’re doing all the right things. . . . They go to church, they read the Bible, they have traditional families, and so on. They’ve done everything the right way.

        All of the sudden the line is stalled. Up ahead of them, there are people leaping forward, which doesn’t bother them because according to the doctrine, that’s the American way. You work hard and you have merit, strange kind of merit, you get rewards. What bothers them is that the people behind them in the line, as they see it, are being pushed ahead of them by the federal government.

        By liberal elites and so forth.

        By liberal elites and the federal government. That they resent. The facts are different. There’s no basis in fact, but you can understand the basis for the perception. That can be dealt with by serious activist organizing. Many of the people Hochschild was dealing with are committed environmentalists, but they hate the EPA. They want to destroy the Environment Protection Agency. The families are very interesting. Hochschild’s working in an area which is sometimes called cancer alley. Everybody’s dying from cancer from the chemical pollution plants. Nevertheless, they vote for a Congressman who wants to dismantle the EPA entirely.

        There’s a reason. Turns out, there’s an internal rationality to this self-destructive position. Organizers and activists can go after that. The internal rationality is that what they see is some guy from the EPA wearing a suit and jacket coming down to tell them, “You can’t fish in this river.” Meanwhile, he does nothing about the chemical plants. Why do they want the EPA?

      2. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        Sorry, that should read ‘conservation land trust’ above.

  9. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    then there’s a book “Sustainable energy – without the hot air” (free to download)- describing available technologies and costs

    free translations to download as well (in GER, FRA, ITA, ESP, etc languages)

    About the author:

    David MacKay FRS was the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and then obtained his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Cambridge as a Royal Society research fellow at Darwin College. He was internationally known for his research in machine learning, information theory, and communication systems, including the invention of Dasher, a software interface that enables efficient communication in any language with any muscle. He was appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Physics at Cambridge in 1995 and was a Professor in the Department of Physics from 2003 to 2013. Since 2005, he has devoted much of his time to public teaching about energy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

    Nine months after the publication of ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’, David MacKay was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

  10. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    The idea that human nature is inherently competitive and individualistic isn’t just harmful, argues George Monbiot in his new book. It’s also contradicted by psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis provides a compelling argument for how we can reorganize our world for the better from the bottom up.

    Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a remarkable convergence of findings in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and evolutionary biology. They all point to the fact that humankind, as an article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology puts it, is “spectacularly unusual when compared to other animals” in our degree of altruism. There’s a list of references to scientific papers on this subject in Out of the Wreckage.

    We also have an astonishing capacity for empathy, and a tendency toward cooperation that is rivaled among mammals only by the naked mole rat. These tendencies are innate. We evolved in the African savannahs: a world of fangs and claws and horns and tusks. We survived despite being weaker and slower than both our potential predators and most of our prey. We did so through developing, to an extraordinary degree, a capacity for mutual aid. As it was essential to our survival, this urge to cooperate was hard-wired into our brains through natural selection.

    … One of our principal tasks is to replace … false story with what the science tells us about who we really are. We do not need to change human nature, we need to reveal it.

    1. Marc Bedner Avatar

      If early humans hadn’t learned cooperative hunting, Homo sapiens would not have survived to leave Africa and begin the sixth global extinction.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      I think we have wonderful empathy and altruism for our own kind; but not much for other life on Earth. “They’re only animals” and “people are more important” are refrains I hear constantly.

  11. Yvette Avatar

    The article discusses what we humans need to do to survive as a species. The critics on how we get there are valid.

    My personal opinion is it won’t happen. We can’t even get an legally binding law/agreement to reduce carbon emissions or to accept that climate change is real and is happening.

    Somebody in this country thought it good idea to elect Donald d@mned Trump for POTUS. (and I thought Reagan was bad). Scott Pruitt is the Administrator of EPA. Rick, oops, Perry is Secretary of Dept. of Energy. We’re not moving forward; we’re sprinting backward.

    We have the McIrvin ranching family in Washington running their cattle in the mountains and deliberately close to wolf dens. WA state of Ecology/wildlife kill the wolves. Not enough people are mentally ready to move toward a Half-earth society/policy. We can’t even get the Sage Grouse on the ESA list.

    I have no faith in humans. Humans are not going to be proactive to save what we have left and restore what can be mitigated. The world is a colonized capitalistic time bomb. The best that is likely to happen is there will be pockets of small societies that build a sustainable environment for their people. They will be self reliant until things continue to deteriorate. Then those small self-sustaining societies will be killed and over-powered by others. This is not a new story for our species. We’ve done this over and again to ourselves and other societies.

    Who’s been following what is happening in Puerto Rico? That is where the world is headed.

    The good thing is earth will recover. There will be species that survive and evolve.

    1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
      Mareks Vilkins

      We can’t even get an legally binding law/agreement to reduce carbon emissions or to accept that climate change is real and is happening.

      Trump won’t stop Americans hitting the Paris climate targets. Here’s how we do it

      Forget the White House, a new coalition of cities, businesses and universities are taking a lead role in fighting climate change

      Last week, the Trump administration formally notified the UN of its intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement. It was an empty gesture, because no party can actually withdraw until November 2020 (right after the next US presidential election). What matters is this: the US is on pace to reach the commitment we made under the agreement – and there is nothing Washington can do to stop us.

      Over the past decade, the US has led the world in reducing carbon emissions. In that time, the US Congress has never passed a single law directly aimed at climate change.

      Globally, cities account for about 70% of carbon emissions. That makes them the bulk of the problem, but they are also the source of the most effective solutions. In New York City, we were able to reduce emissions by 19% in just six years, while also outpacing the nation in job growth. Mayors around the world, from across the political spectrum, are increasing their use of clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, which is now often cheaper than fossil fuels.

      Since the Trump administration announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris agreement, more than 2,500 US cities, states, businesses and universities have signed a letter reaffirming their commitment to the agreement’s goals

      Under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, the state of California – by itself the world’s sixth-largest economy – recently announced a commitment to getting 60% of its energy from clean sources and strengthened its cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      I agree!

  12. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Got to remember there are a lot more areas where tax dollars go than 70 years ago.

    Have to agree with WM here. And a lot more people too.

  13. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    well, if we really want to go deeper in this issue then we should consider:

    1)whether large carnivores (LC) have been present all the time in a given country;

    2) if not, then when exactly society went from rural to urban majority;

    3) forest ownership statistics;

    4) ungulate statistics / hunter number or ratio / game meat (kg) per hunter;

    5) whether livestock depredation is compensated;

    6) how many local politicians (county level) are hunters themselves (that is, members of a local hunting collectives as in many European countries the hunting is organized within hunting districts where landlords/forest owners lease hunting rights to hunter collectives)

    etc etc etc

    Hunter ratio:

    GER 1 hunter per 233 citizens (350k out of 82m)
    POL 1 : 363
    SLO 1 : 98 (or ~1% of society)

    FIN 1 : 17
    NOR 1 : 24
    SWE 1 : 31

    I don’t know how about GER / POL / SCANDI but in the Baltic states (EE,LV,LT) there’s a hunter in every county/local government and it shows when a hunter collective make a contract with forest owner about leasing hunting right to them. Never mind, that an old hunter ( average age of a hunter is 55 years) has his children in a city (where it is easier to find a job and access to more entertainment)so all this bitching should be taken with a grain of salt.

  14. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    The Trump administration has major deregulatory ambitions. But how much deregulation is actually happening? This tracker helps you monitor a selection of delayed, repealed, and new rules, notable guidance and policy revocations, and important court battles across eight major categories, including environmental, health, labor, and more.

  15. Connie Reppe Avatar
    Connie Reppe

    How could Half-Earth be possible? The current trending owners of land and ranchers, etc., selling land? Then there’s opportunities of choice within a sellers market for the potential to bid for and buy-out agricultural farmland, etc. What happens in the next one-hundred years? Stake-out and start buying land, beginning tomorrow. Look back two-hundred forty years ago, and reference chronicled archives of picturesque landscapes, and places. Yes, yesterday is troublesome and there’s worriment. Persuade.

  16. Connie Reppe Avatar
    Connie Reppe

    How could Half-Earth be possible? Persuade a vision of landscape of a scope rarely attained before. Reference: The Encampment of Piekann Indians near Fort McKenzie on the Miscleshell River…”not far from present-day Fort Benton, Montana.” And,

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